Come along for the ride!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cotton wool kids

During the summer of last year, a work colleague read a couple of articles on childhood (click here and here), turned to me and said, “yeah, parents worry too much nowadays. Kids should be allowed to just do their own thing, to go to the park alone and” and so on.

I politely reminded my colleague that she didn’t in fact have any children and that she had no idea what she was talking about.

Of course, to a certain degree, she was right; we do worry, all parents do.

But do we worry more now than parents of yester-year? According to one very interesting article by Carol Midgley (if you have 5 minutes, read it here), it would appear not; we just worry about different things.

Yes, I know the risk of someone snatching a child is very small but what parents wants their little darling to be that dreaded minority? Ok, apparently road accidents are far less common than they were in 1976 but again, who wants their child to become nothing more than a government statistic?

Not me.

I agree that it would be better to lighten up in places like playgrounds, to stop rushing forward yelling, “careful now, hold on tight, that’s it, swing your legs across, now come down the slide”, when your beloved is barely 5 feet off the ground.

Your actions seem to be justified though, because most other parents are doing exactly the same thing as you. But, as Midgley says, you have to let children get on with it, let them learn that if they hit the ground from 5 feet up, it will undoubtedly hurt and to hold on tighter next time. Bigger kids will push past them whether they are 6 years old or 16 years old; let them learn to either push back or step out of the way.

I know what she says is right but it is hard to sit and smile from across the playground when in your minds eye you are already picturing them slipping, falling, landing, bleeding, breaking and crying.

Kids are, if nothing else, resilient. They fall down, cry at their bloody leg or arm, wipe the tears and they want to get back to the game, to their friends, to get involved. It is us, the parents, who hold them back, worried at what the next fall might bring.

How many of us have shouted, “be more careful next time” at the back of our children as they run off, back to the fun?

Parenting is as much a learning curve as being a child. You hope and pray you get your approach to the job just right as the long term repercussions if you don’t are serious and far reaching.

A parent apparently said the other day that I was ‘too strict’ as a parent. Well, that may be so but again, it is down to the individual to ‘parent’ as he or she sees fit, not how others decide.

If you’ve had a turn at it, step aside – it’s my turn, whether I get it right or not.

And I think I’m doing ok.


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